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License Holders Pay Muni Up to Three Times More Than Before

  • Council Members Think Liquor Law Should Be Modified
  • Internal Regulations Will Be Defined After Sala IV Resolution

By Wilberth Villalobos Castrillo

Discord and controversy… This is what the new Liquor Law that is still being implemented has brought for the majority of local governments in the country, including the Municipality of Nicoya. 

The principle motive of the conflict is the great increase in the prices that owners of the licenses should pay to the Municipality.

For more than 20 years, Jesus Angela Quiros Miranda has been the owner of La Amapola cantina located in the San Martin neighborhood in Nicoya. She said that last year she paid 48,000 colones ($96) per trimester for use of the license. However now with the new rules she has to pay 189,000 colones ($378), more than three times the former amount.

“Now what I do is set aside a little money each month to pay the three months and with effort I have enough to pay the light and water and to sort of eat,” assured Quiros.

Law 9047, known as the Liquor Law, went into effect in the country last August. Among its main changes is fixing the base salary, which is currently 379,400 colones ($758.80), as the parameter for determining how much a business should pay to sell alcoholic beverages.

The new legislation groups the licenses with the letters from A to E. For example, according to this law, a cantina or bar without dance activity falls under category B1 and should pay from half of the base salary (189,700 colones or $379.40) to one base salary (379,400 colones or $758.80) per trimester. 

Meanwhile, the type D license for mini supers and supermarkets obligates them to pay from one base salary (379,400 colones or $758.80) to two base salaries (758.800 colones or $1517.60).

In this regard, Juan Yockchen Mora, municipal councilmember, classified this charge as “unjust since in the majority of the coastal rural zones of Nicoya the economy of these businesses is subsistence and this law will break them,” he affirmed.  

In addition, Yockchen indicated that the law is not fair and doesn’t differentiate between what mini supers and supermarkets should pay. “A small family business is not the same as a chain of supermarkets,” he noted and added, “The law doesn’t establish a fair parameter for determining how much the businesses should pay in relation to the volume of real sales.”

Likewise, Mario Ondoy Villegas, municipal councilmember, indicated in the ordinary session that took place on February 25 that “the law has to be modified since it doesn’t permit two things: either charging less that the established [base salary] or making exceptions,” he explained. 

Bylaw Awaits Sala IV

When Marcos Jimenez, municipal mayor, was consulted by VON about whether an internal bylaw has been defined for the regulation and commercialization of alcoholic beverages, he said it doesn’t exist yet since the municipality is waiting for the resolution made by the Sala IV (constitutional court) regarding the acts of unconstitutionality presented since November of 2012. 

Since this date, four acts of unconstitutionality have been presented to the Sala IV, on the grounds that the Liquor Law violates the right to property, free trade, the principle of legality and fair taxation.
Guillermo Sanabria, president of the Chamber of License Holders of Costa Rica (Cámara de Patentados de Costa Rica), estimated that if the current law continues, between 6,000 to 7,000 businesses would have to close nationwide medium and long term since they won’t be able to pay the price each trimester for their licenses.

However, Sanabria is optimistic that the Sala IV will modify the law since he considers it “a very badly made law, and unjust.” In addition, he referred to article 3, which changes the nature of the licenses, considering them simply as licenses and no longer as an asset. Therefore it can’t be sold, traded, leased, transferred or exchanged in any way.

For his part, Cristian Soto, in charge of the municipality’s department of licenses, recognized that the increase in amounts to pay obviously has generated unrest among license holders. Nevertheless he assured that one of the benefits of the new law is that it prevents renting or selling licenses to third parties, known as the “black market of licenses, so it “prevents people from doing big personal business with a municipal good.”

For now, Sanabria advises license holders in the canton of Nicoya to request a certification from the municipal licenses department about the status of their license and file an appeal regarding the unfair charge. This way they can avoid the current charge while awaiting the response of the Sala IV. For more information, you can call the Chamber of License Holders of Costa Rica at 2256-9668.


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